Friday, July 30, 2021

Barbashev agrees to terms on two-year contract

RFA avoids arbitration by coming to terms 
on $4.5 million contract, $2.25 million AAV

ST LOUIS -- One of the Blues' restricted free agents is no more.
Ivan Barbashev

The team announced late Friday afternoon that forward Ivan Barbashev has agreed to terms on a two-year, $4.5 million contract ($2.25 million average annual value).

Barbashev, 25, was arbitration-eligible but signed two days after becoming a RFA; he has played in 270 games with the Blues and has 89 points (42 goals and 47 assists), including 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 38 games this past season.

The signing leaves the Blues with just over $6.33 million in available cap space remaining (for now) with contracts for forwards Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Zach Sanford and Dakota Joshua left on the docket.

There will be some alleviation there depending on when the Blues trade Vladimir Tarasenko and his $7.5 million cap hit, or however much they take back in salary, and a eighth defenseman, for now, is counted on the cap, according to cap friendly, but Klim Kostin, should be make the team, will have his $863,333 cap hit count. 

Of the remaining RFA's, Sanford is the only one arbitration-eligible.

The Blues padded their farm team in Springfield, Mass. on Friday when they signed defenseman Calle Rosen to a one-year, two-way contract ($700K NHL/$300K AHL) and defenseman Tommy Cross to a one-year, two-way contract ($750K NHL/$250K AHL).

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Blues sign Saad to five-year contract

UFA forward gets $22.5 million ($4.5 million AAV) 
on contract, addresses need for top-six forward

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues addressed a need for a top-six left wing when they signed free agent forward Brandon Saad to a five-year, $22.5 million contract that carries an an average annual value of $4.5 million.

Reports say the contract includes a full no-trade clause for the first four seasons and modified no-trade clause in the fifth year.

The 28-year-old, who played last season for the Colorado Avalanche, had 24 points (15 goals, nine assists) in 44 regular-season games eight points (seven goals, one assist) in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brandon Saad (20) joined the Blues on Friday when he signed a five-year,
$22.5 million contract.
"I'm excited," Saad said. "I'm looking to getting to know the city a little bit better because when you play there, kind of in and out and you don't get to see all parts of the city, but I've heard great things and they're obviously a great hockey team that I'm looking forward to joining and having another chance of winning and have that success. I think all the ingredients are there and it's a team that definitely excites me, that's for sure, so I'm definitely glad to be a part of it."

Saad, 28, fits the need for specifically a left wing that can play a two-way game and drive offense at the other end. Of his 371 points, 318 of them have come at even strength, an area the Blues need improvement in.

"I think from playing against them, they play a heavy game," Saad said of his fit with the Blues. "They like to hold onto pucks, cycle pucks, protects it, and that's all part of my identity as well. I think I can fit right into that aspect as well as play a 200-foot game.

"... I think that's a huge part of it too. I'm a hockey player, I'm competitive and I want to contribute. Any time you can have an opportunity to play and play for a good team, I think that definitely excites you as a hockey player. That's something I definitely thought about."

Saad waited a day before making his decision after a busy day to open free agency on Wednesday when, according to cap friendly, 163 contracts were signed to $785-plus million.

"I think it's a big decision," Saad said. "It's something I've never been through. Having a family and a couple young kids, it's something where you have to talk to your family, kind of weigh out the pros and cons, living situations, team situations. It's more that goes into it than you think, so it's something I just really wanted to think about and digest before making a decision."

Saad was part of the Avalanche that swept the Blues in the first round of the playoffs this past season, but bwing a two-time Stanley Cup winner and knowing the Blues have a number of guys that recently won it adds to the pedigree of experience of knowing how to get it done.

"For sure. I think that experience, it's to hard to come by, so any time you can join a team that's had success, especially recently, they know what it takes to win, they kind of have that mentality," Saad said of the Blues. "I think that's huge and something that you can't really put a price on that experience. 

"I think that was a huge part. It's something where I've won in my career, I've been fortunate. Once you get a taste of it, that's something that there's no better feeling. I think when it comes down to it, I wanted to go somewhere where you have a chance of winning and you're going to have a successful team. The Blues fit that mold."

It will be decided at at camp of course, but the idea of playing with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron excites Saad should be get that chance.

"Those are two great players," Saad said. "I think that's an exciting line for sure. There's a lot of good options on that team, but those guys are great. After playing against them, they're the kind of guys that you hate to play against because of how competitive they are and how successful they are. I'm definitely excited to be joining them."

Selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft, Saad has 371 points (184 goals, 187 assists) in 632 regular-season games with the Avalanche, Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets; he's played seven of his 10 NHL seasons in Chicago where he won the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015.

Now he gets to don the Blues jersey.

"For sure, it's something that's part of the business as a hockey player," Saad said. "Like you said, there's a lot of rivalries and a lot of good teams we got to battle out with the Blues, so that's something that's going to be a little weird at first putting on the sweater, but that's something too when you go through those battles, you appreciate the guys on the other side as well so I'm excited to be joining them."

Saad joins forward Pavel Buchnevich as new top-six forwards added to the group for this season.

Buchnevich was acquired in a trade from the New York Rangers last week for Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round pick.

With Saad's signing, the Blues have over $8.5 million in cap space available with restricted free agents to Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford and Dakota Joshua to sign. They could gain another $7.5 million in cap space pending a trade of forward Vladimir Tarasenko.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Blues silent on first day of free agency, lose Schwartz, Hoffman

Team makes no moves as free agent frenzy opens for 2021; two key 
forwards sign with Seattle, Montreal; Buchnevich speaks on trade to St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- With over 140 signings totaling 272 years in contracts, more than $260 million in cap hits and $760 million-plus in actual dollars shelled out, the Blues were left out of the waters on the NHL's first day of free agency.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Jaden Schwartz (17) spent the past 10 seasons with the Blues after being
drafted in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft.

Well, in a matter of speaking, because the Blues were left out in regards to anyone coming here as of yet, but there were a few key departures.

The Blues did not dip their toes in the waters of the free agent market on the first frenzied day but will have to look to retool their roster after losing forwards Jaden Schwartz and Mike Hoffman.

Schwartz, a first-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, left the Blues after 10 seasons to sign with the expansion Seattle Kraken, netting a five-year, $27.5 million contract that will pay him an average annual value of $5.5 million, a slight bump up from the $5.35 million AAV he got from the Blues in a contract he signed July 15, 2016. 

One would think the Blues would have been in on bringing the hard-working Schwartz, who had 385 points (154 goals, 231 assists) in 560 regular-season games and helped the Blues win their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2019, but as much as a new challenge excites the Wilcox, Saskatchewan native, the thought of being closer to home, specifically his mother Carol, after tragically and suddenly losing his father Rick to a heart attack last November, and after the death of his sister Mandi 10 years ago, appealed to Schwartz as much, if not more.

"I think Seattle right from the get go, there was mutual interest, both from them and me," Schwartz said in a Zoom call to reporters. "My parents actually lived in Seattle for a year, a little under a year maybe. My sister did chemotherapy there, a core blood transplant. I was able to go to the city and I really liked it. I thought it was very nice. The people that we met were great, we had a lot of people helping us through a hard time. 

"I think there was just a mutual interest and the whole expansion team in a new city with a lot of buzz, a lot of people being super excited about it. If you look at Vegas and how that city has taken off in the hockey world and how exciting it is in that city. That made me think about Seattle a lot and the opportunity to get to play for a new franchise and not a lot of people get to do that. I'm super excited to join them. I knew right away that that was a place I was going to look at and I'm really happy that it got done."

Schwartz, 29, will be reunited with his Blues teammate of the past four seasons, defenseman Vince Dunn, who was chosen by the Kraken off the Blues roster last week in the expansion draft, and the two of them can bring a Cup-winning pedigree to Seattle.

"I was talking to him a little bit. I know he's excited to get down there," Schwartz said. "That was obviously a really special run we had a dream come true for me and the city of St. Louis. That's about as high as you can get in the hockey world. Obviously, you learn a lot. Even years before that, we had really good teams and you kind of learn when you don't win. Some of the struggles you had, you kind of learn from that too. ... Winning that championship was big for me personally."

The Blues also lost Hoffman, who they signed last season to a one-year, $4 million contract. Hoffman, 31, signed a three-year, $13.5 million ($4.5 million AAV) to join the Montreal Canadiens, who were also in pursuit of Hoffman before he signed with the Blues last season.

Hoffman had 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) in 52 games in his only season in St. Louis, and a source indicated the Blues were in the negotiations and very interested in bringing the sharpshooter back and came down to the wire with him, but the Canadiens won out this time after falling short last season.

With the free agent pool quickly diminishing and the search for another scoring left wing to play in the top six, the top remaining free agent available is Brandon Saad, who played for the Colorado Avalanche last season. And there is always the trade avenue, which is more complex and takes time to hammer out sometimes, and the Vladimir Tarasenko trade request saga looming, but the lack of activity has Blues fans already up in arms despite Armstrong indicating last week that doing what's best for the Blues doesn't necessarily have to come in grand fashion on opening day of free agency.

Could they get involved in a trade for St. Louisan Matthew Tkachuk if the possibility existed with the Calgary Flames? Or would they enter trade talks with the Buffalo Sabres for star center Jack Eichel? Or for another forward not on a radar for that matter? It wouldn't surprise if Armstrong went that route. 

"I'm not as concerned on the next couple of weeks as probably other people are," Armstrong said last Friday. "What I think we need to protect ourselves against is making a mistake right now. You get into a situation where you get nervous and all of the sudden you see long-term contracts given and you're a little uncomfortable and you do it, and then you're wondering what you did. I remember we were in this similar situation when we lost the semifinals to San Jose (in 2016) and lost some players (David Backes and Troy Brouwer), but you just have to understand it has to make sense for the organization today and tomorrow. Whether it's via free agency, whether it's via trades or whether it's via giving your young players an opportunity because you don't like what's available, you have to be honest with yourself and make sure you're doing what's best for the organization. Not just a splash-wise on the 28th or 29th but something that you can live with."

But now with Schwartz gone, Dunn gone and potentially Tyler Bozak gone after the veteran center also became a UFA on Wednesday, the Blues could be left without 11 of their 20-man roster that suited up in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. And should Tarasenko get traded, it would be 12 of 20 gone off that roster.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Mike Hoffman spent this past season with the Blues but signed a free agent
contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.

"It certainly has that opportunity to look different, but I don't think that's surprising," Armstrong said. "We've had very little turnover here in our core group for the better part of a decade. Now there is some turnover and we're obviously turning it over to a different group of people. You wish everything lasts forever, but it doesn't. So yeah, it does look like there is turnover now and probably in the foreseeable future."

New Blues forward Pavel Buchnevich spoke to the media for the first time since he was acquired via trade from the New York Rangers for forward Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round pick last week.

Buchnevich, who is in his home country of Russia for the summer and will arrive in St. Louis prior to training camp in early September, felt a trade was possible.

"I'm just happy it's happened," Buchnevich said. "... I don't need to wait anymore and I know where I will be the next four years."

Buchnevich spoke with fellow Russians Ivan Barbashev and Tarasenko and received welcome/congratulatory texts from new teammates, including Torey Krug, Brayden Schenn, David Perron and Ryan O'Reilly.

"I think it's (a) good team," Buchnevich said. "Two years ago they win Cup, I know that. Obviously they have a lot of good players. Obviously tough to play (against). A good goaltender. I hope I play a big role there and help the team (win)."

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Buchnevich signs four-year contract with Blues

Days after being acquired from the New York Rangers, 
forward inks $23.2 million contract that carries a $5.8 million AAV

ST. LOUIS -- Three days after acquiring the potential restricted free agent forward, the Blues signed Pavel Buchnevich to a four-year contract worth $23.2 million, or $5.8 million in average annual value.
Pavel Buchnevich

The Blues acquired Buchnevich, 26, on Friday from the the New York Rangers for forward Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round pick.

Both Blues general manager Doug Armstrong and Buchnevich agent Todd Doamind said on Friday the hope was to work out a long-term contract for a player who had arbitration rights heading into the off-season.

"That's how you always enter it," Diamond, who also represents Blues goalie Ville Husso, said Friday. "In a negotiation, you always hope it's going to be smooth and easy, especially with this off-season, everything being so compact. I think Doug and I have enough years between us to kind of understand kind of where Pavel should fit and ultimately it doesn't take too long and we can get things going."

What the Blues did was buy out three years of unrestricted free agency and will be getting Buchnevich, who had 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 54 games last season, during his prime seasons.

"I think 25, 26 is really at a very good age and when you're moving players, and we've done that in the past, in that age, you're a little apprehensive because you know they're just coming into their own and when you gain players from other organizations, you hope that there's still another level to go to," Armstrong said Friday. "... I've worked with Todd Diamond on a number of contracts in the past. I enjoy working with Todd. He's a straight shooter. We've been able to do some deals in the past, and we hope to. That's the goal going in is to see if we can get something done now or in the future on a long-term deal. At 26 years old, he's a player that is at a very good age."

Buchnevich will wear No. 89, becoming the first Blue in history to don that number, is expected to play in the top six for them moving forward.

"He's a combination of a lot of things," Diamond said of Buchnevich. "He's got a really good hockey mind, really good vision. He can see the play a few steps ahead, pinpoint passer, a very good shot. He battles, he battles for his teammates. I think he's got five or six fighting majors since he came to the NHL, which is a lot for a player from Russia. He believes in standing up for his teammates. He doesn't like his teammates to be pushed around. And for those reasons, I think it's a pretty solid fit hockey-wise."

The Blues feel so, too, and with free agency set to begin on Wednesday, there's a sense this team moving forward will have a drastically different makeup.

Vladimir Tarasenko, who requested a trade, could be dealt, and the Blues have multiple players (Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak and Mike Hoffman) who can become UFA's.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Blues trade up to select Swedish winger, make three picks on final day of draft

Robertsson, projected to be late first-, second-round pick, gets 
selected in third round after St. Louis trades with San Jose to move up

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues made a trade.

(Skelleftea AIK photo)
Blues third round pick Simon Robertsson was projected to be a late first
or second round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

No, it wasn't Vladimir Tarasenko. They didn't bring in any other impact names on Saturday, a day after trading for New York Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich, but the Blues did move up on the second day of the 2021 NHL Draft.

Having no picks in the second round, the Blues had to wait for the third round, and the couldn't wait for pick No. 81, so they packaged that, along with their sixth-round pick (No. 177) and sent them to the San Jose Sharks for the Sharks' third-round pick, No. 71, and used it to select right wing Simon Robertsson of Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League.

Listed as a 6-foot-0, 190-pound right wing, the 18-year-old of Pitea, Sweden a goal and an assist in 22 games with Skelleftea AIK last season and 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) with Skelleftea's Juniors in 15 games before the season was cancelled because of COVID-19. Robertsson also had three points (two goals, one assist) in seven games on loan with Pitea HC and had three goals and an assist for Sweden at the World Junior Championship this past year.

"I'm very honored. I'm pretty shocked maybe. I'm just very happy," Robertsson said from Plymouth, Mich. where he's playing in a showcase tournament with the Under-20 Swedish team. 

"... It took a couple games (in the SHL) to get used to how quick everything happens and how strong they were. I think maybe like 15 games in, it felt better for me. I could do something with the puck instead of just throw it away. It took 15 games and I feel more comfortable." 

Robertsson was the 11th ranked skater among European skaters among draft prospect rankings in the NHL Central Scouting who was projected at one point by various draft prognosticators to be a potential first-round pick.

"It's a player that we were comfortable paying the price to, to acquire," Blues director of amateur scouting Tony Feltrin said. "We believe in his abilities. A good, hard-driving winger. We just did not feel we wanted to risk letting him slip through. We're certainly happy where he fell. It was a good selection for us. I'm not so concerned about it being a second round pick or a third round pick. It's a good acquisition for the St. Louis Blues."

"I don't think I was going to go in the first round," Robertsson said. "I heard I was going to go in the second. I'm not so shocked. I had lots of meetings and things like that. I'm really happy (for) the Blues to select me. 

"I had a good meeting with them and I had good meetings with the Swedish scout there. Not the team that I talked to the most but it's one of the teams I had meetings with."

Robertsson has been described as an all-around player that has a heavy shot and plays a power forward style of game.

"I'm a two-way forward," Robertsson said. "I like to shoot the puck and play hard, deliver hits and I hate to lose, so I bring everything to the game to win. ... I've worked with my shot. I think I've always had a hard shot. That's something I've worked with and still do. I think it's one of my greatest tools."

There are bloodlines for Robertsson, whose father Bert was a defenseman and 10th-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in the 1993 draft and played 123 games for the Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers who is now the head coach of Linköpings HC of the SHL and gave his son some sound advice about the NHL.

"Like it's hard, like you have to work for everything and you don't get anything that easily," Simon Robertsson said. "I have to work for it."

Robertsson said he plans to play in Sweden at Skelleftea AIK since he's under contract for two more years.

The Blues didn't have a fourth round pick this year; it was traded to Montreal when they acquired defenseman Marco Scandella, but in the fifth round, they took Calgary Hitmen defenseman Tyson Galloway.

The 6-3, 220-pound Galloway, 18, spend the past season playing in the Western Hockey League for the Hitmen and had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 17 games that was derailed when he had to quarantine for two weeks after a teammate tested positive for COVID-19.

"He came in and played a contributing role in Calgary," Feltrin said. "Ended up getting nicked up and missing some games in what was approximately a 24-game season. But a big-bodied kid, pretty good mobility, moves the puck effectively. Actually scored some goals this season. Plays a pretty good solid, two-way game. Our Western Hockey League scouts like him. There's some good upside there."

And with expectations of getting drafted, there were some nervy moments from the time Galloway woke up and began to watch the second day of the draft from his home in Kamloops, British Columbia. 

"I had talked to St. Louis about three weeks after the season had ended," said Galloway, who compared his game to that of former Blue Joel Edmundson, who played a season in the WHL himself in Kamloops in 2012-13. "I had a good conversation with (Blues scouts). I was pretty confident going into the draft honestly building up to it. I was a fourth, fifth round, sixth round where I was projected and evidently I went in the fifth round and everything kind of worked out perfectly.

"... I was up pretty early. I watched all the way from the start of the second round until when I got picked. I was just kind of waiting there patiently getting a little stressed there, I'm not going to lie. Fortunately St. Louis stepped up there in the fifth round. One of the best days of my life and I'm super fortunate for the St. Louis Blues organization for taking the chance on me."

The Blues had a six-round pick but traded it to the Sharks to grab Robertsson, but with their final pick of this draft in the seventh round, they chose Russian right wing Ivan Vorobyov, 19.
Vorobyov had 50 points (21 goals 29 assists) in 52 games for Mamonty Yugry of the Minor Hockey League of Russia and then played in three games for Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk of the Supreme Hockey League.

"Russian and European scouting staff did a lot of diligence on him," Feltrin said. "He's got good scoring ability, plays with hunger, good quickness. They expect him to play in the (SHL) in Russia next season, but his hunger, speed and scoring abilities are the enticements."
The Blues' draft consisted of just four picks altogether after they chose center/wing Zachary Bolduc with the 17th overall pick on Friday.

"In Zachary Bolduc, we have a real strong skater, good-skilled player," Feltrin said. "Capable of playing left wing or center. He can score goals, he's competitive, quick on pucks, good shot, scoring ability. There's lots to like about the player, real good upside."
(Calgary Hitmen photo)
Blues fifth round pick Tyson Galloway was the lone defenseman the team
selected of their four picks in the 2021 NHL Draft.

All in all, despite the challenges of seeing players in limited live action because of shutdowns due to COVID, the Blues are happy with the return on what they got in their picks.

"Numerous challenges. Certainly the combination of those players that you have the opportunity to see both video and live views," Feltrin said. "It's a little bit of a greater sense of security or comfort level with the typical scouting years. Staff put in a tremendous amount of time, effort. Right from the get-go, we knew it was going to be a unique season and guys bought in, spent the video time and depends on the regions of where players were playing and not playing. Guys put in the effort. We're comfortable in where we were in every opportunity that there was presented to attend live games, we were certainly there. All in all, we made best of the circumstances, and again, staff did a tremendous job from start to finish this season.

"... We feel we've got some players that are going to be attributes for the St. Louis Blues down the road. We like our selections. Kids all have some good potential. It was four players, it's four additional players on our depth chart and we're pleased to have them."

Friday, July 23, 2021

Blues select forward with top pick in 2021 NHL Draft

Zachary Bolduc makes good impression on team; 
French-Canadian gives Blues flexible forward who can play center, left wing

ST. LOUIS -- Zachary Bolduc made one final impression, an impression that earned him a ticket to the NHL.

A ticket in the first round, actually.

A ticket to Missouri.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues made Zachary Bolduc (pictured) their first-round pick of the 2021 
NHL Draft on Friday.

The Blues selected the center/left wing with the 17th pick (16th because the 11th pick was forfeited by the Arizona Coyotes) of the 2021 NHL Draft on Friday.

Bolduc, who spent the past two seasons at Rimouski Oceanic and was a teammate of last year's top overall pick, Alexis Lafreniere, vaguely remembers having a chat with Blues brass, but when the pick was made on Friday, the Trois-Rivières, Quebec native made sure to be represented by all 32 hats and had no idea he'd go to St. Louis.

"I remember that I had a really great conversation with them," Bolduc said. "I'll be honest, I did a lot of interviews and my brain is full of emotion and I'm very happy. If I remember well, I had a great interview with them, a great chat. For sure I see the Blues as a team who can pick me. When I heard Rimouski Oceanic, I was very happy and very excited.

"Honestly, I didn't have a clue. I talked with almost all the teams. I had a big talk with the doctor of the Blues, the psychologist. I had a really great conversation with him and it was the only team that I did that. For me, it was special, but I didn't think about it the first time. But after they draft me, I think about it a little bit and I realized that that call was maybe important.

"This day will be a special day for the rest of my life."

Bolduc, listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, had a very injury-plagued season with Rimouski last season despite collecting 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in just 27 games. But a shoulder injury that sidelined him for two weeks , he had appendix surgery and forced him to miss another 4-6 weeks, came back, injured his MCL and missed 6-7 weeks. Bolduc is using a brace right now but is feeling well. Feels he'll be ready for training camp, training now three times a week and five times in the gym.

This after a season in which he teamed up with Lafreniere, who was chosen by the New York Rangers with the top overall pick in 2020, to score 30 goals and add 22 assists in 55 games.

"It was very special to have the chance to play with a guy like him," Bolduc said of Lafreniere. "I learned a lot from him just the way he prepared in itself and the way he's putting his focus at the right time (and) at the right place. Even if there's fans and media, all this stuff off the ice and when he's coming into the locker room to make himself better and the team better. That's one of the things I learned a lot from Alexis."

Not long after his selection, Bolduc, who is French-Canadian, received a text and tweet from a fellow French-Canadian: David Perron.

"I don't know him, but I received a text. I'll call afterward and I will answer to his text," Bolduc said. "It will be an honor to meet him one day and I'm really happy to be a member of the St. Louis Blues. ... Someone told me that he did a tweet or something like that. I'm very happy and just excited to meet all the guys and all the staff."

Bolduc, described as a Sam Reinhart/Sean Monahan type of player, actually said he models his game after that of Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetzov.

"For me, it's an honor to be compared with those guys. For sure I see myself the same way, the same way that they play," Bolduc said. "(But Kuznetzov is) the guy I said I like to model my game after. Can play center, on the wing, physical, fast, shoot the puck well, can pass it also, creative. He's the guy I like to model my game after."

Sort of like Bolduc's game?

"I will describe myself as a guy who can play on the center or on the wing, a guy who skates pretty well, who has a great shot but also can pass it," Bolduc said. "I'm creative with the puck, I love to create some plays and I can be physical, fast, skills game. I can play any type of game. That's me."

Bolduc is a center by trade but has admitted that transitioning to left wing seems to be the route he's taking, and that's the route of flexibility the Blues like in their forwards.

"If you were asking me that question two years ago, I would say center, but after the two past years, I played on the left wing," Bolduc said. "After Christmas, I learned to play it and take advantage of the left wing. I would say that I see myself in the NHL."

Bolduc's path to Rimouski included a conversation with Rimouski alum and Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who helped pave the way for Bolduc's arrival to the QMJHL squad after a stint with Sioux City of the USHL following a three-week camp with Rimouski.

"I don't know him, but I talked with him maybe 15-20 minutes and it was really an honor for me and he just told me that how good Rimouski was for him," Bolduc said. "He (didn't) tell me to go there, but he told he really grew as a person off the ice, but also as a player with the coaching staff because there was a coaching staff that were there when he was there. For me, I think a lot, talk a lot with my agent and my family. I (made) a decision and I'm very proud of the decision that I took and very lucky to be in Rimouski."

Bolduc has never been to St. Louis but will arrive at some point. He said he doesn't know any of the players now that a certain fellow French-Canadian was traded on Friday.

"Honestly, I don't know a lot. I know Samuel Blais, but he get traded today," Bolduc said of Blais' trade to the New York Rangers for Pavel Buchnevich. "I will know a lot more on David Perron in the next day, I am sure. I'll text him back and have a great chat with him. I know your goalie (Jordan) Binnington, but I'll make sure in the next few days I'll read and look at the guys. I'm really excited to meet the guys and to meet the staff also."

Blues acquire Buchnevich from Rangers

Blais, 2022 second-round pick headed to New York in deal 
for RFA; St. Louis picks up much-needed top-six scoring winger

ST. LOUIS -- The dominoes began to fall for the Blues before the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft on the trade route.

The Blues acquired forward Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers for forward Sammy Blais and  a 2022 second-round pick.
(NHL photo)
Pavel Buchnevich was acquired by the Blues from the New York Rangers
on Friday for Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round pick.

It's no secret that the Blues were going to search for a top-six winger through trade or free agency dating back to last season, and with a potential loss of Jaden Schwartz, who can become an unrestricted free agent, and the trade request of Vladimir Tarasenko, it was imperative that the Blues move on a player that could fit the bill, and they did so before the start of free agency, which is slated to begin Wednesday, July 28.

"I'm excited to have Pavel join our group," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "I want to thank Sammy Blais for his contributions to our organization over the last number of years, (and) wish him nothing but the best of luck and success with the Rangers."

Buchnevich, 26, is coming off a season in which he had 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 54 games; the 6-foot-3, 196-pound forward, who played predominantly right wing in New York, can play either wing; he's scored 79 goals in his five-year career, including 57 the past three seasons for the 2013 third-round pick.

"Well, he's got good size at 6-3. He is a left shot, can play the right side," Armstrong said of Buchnevich. "He's scored in the league recently. He's 26 years old. A player that obviously we control for a year and would like to sign long-term ... the right age group for us, what we're trying to accomplish. And a very good penalty-killer, too, a very underrated penalty-killer. So he's going to touch all aspects of our game and he's at a good age. As we continue to re-tool this roster, and I think he's a good piece for us.

"... I have no idea. Our hope is to (get a long-term contract done). I've worked with Todd Diamond on a number of contracts in the past. I enjoy working with Todd. He's a straight shooter. We've been able to do some deals in the past, and we hope to. That's the goal going in is to see if we can get something done now or in the future on a long-term deal. At 26 years old, he's a player that is at a very good age."

Buchnevich will become a restricted free agent on July 28 with arbitration rights, and as Armstrong said, the Blues would like to sign long-term and Diamond, Buchnevich's agent, gave the same impression.

"That's how you always enter it," said Diamond, who also represents Blues goalie Ville Husso. "In a negotiation, you always hope it's going to be smooth and easy, especially with this off-season, everything being so compact. I think Doug and I have enough years between us to kind of understand kind of where Pavel should fit and ultimately it doesn't take too long and we can get things going. There are other aspects for foreign players like immigration and business. So there's a lot of work to be done. You acquire a new player, you want him to make an impact, you need him to be there on time. So that's going to be our goal."

Buchnevich played on the Rangers' top line with Alexis Lafreniere and Mika Zibanejad and thrived there, and will have a top role with the Blues. 

The trade was among a flurry of them on Friday, and amidst the flat cap of $81.5 million, teams are having to expose players they perhaps don't want to trade but need to.

"Every year, there's opportunities at different times with a flat cap or without a flat cap," Armstrong said. "Teams are going in certain directions and there's a future in what contracts you have coming up. So I think we've seen a lot of activity today in the NHL of teams acquiring draft picks going into what would be considered a rebuild mode and teams that want to stay competitive and want to keep pushing forward are acquiring players. So I think there's always different opportunities, and the flat-cap certainly brings more people in. But I think these deals are there year in and year out."

And this one happened rather quickly.

"Just calling around to managers, trying to find out what each team is looking to do," Armstrong said. "Chris (Drury, the Rangers GM) and I got on an avenue that was beneficial for both of us, so we just talked it out and made a deal."

Buchnevich spent his entire career with the Rangers, and wanted to remain there, but gets this brand new opportunity.

"It's hard to say because I'm not privy to all of the salary demands of other agents for their clients, so it's hard to assess what Chris Drury was staring down, but Pavel did want to stay with the Rangers," Diamond said. "It's the only team he has known, has a lot of close relationships in the locker room, a lot of good will there, but that's life in pro sports and the cap world.

"I think for the hockey world it's a shock he ended up in St. Louis, but Chris kind of allowed me to be involved along the way, so I had insight into what teams he was speaking with. I think Doug is a seasoned Stanley Cup-champion GM. When he sees a good opportunity, he's going to pounce on it, and that's what he did here."

Adding Buchnevich adds a much-needed piece to the top six, but where does that leave pending unrestricted free agents Jaden Schwartz and Mike Hoffman and/or Tyler Bozak for that matter?

"We'd certainly like to stay in contact with those guys, but in a flat cap, every dollar is allocated and we have an understanding of what an arbitration case might look like for Pavel and hopefully we get a longer-term deal done and that's obviously going to increase that number, not decrease that number," Armstrong said. "It does affect it for sure. There's no getting around it. In a cap system, a flat cap system, there's only so much money to be allocated and once it's spent, it's spent."

Which is why a trade of Vladimir Tarasenko and his $7.5 million cap hit will be imperative for the Blues to move as quickly as possible, even though Armstrong won't make a knee-jerk reactionary trade.

But Armstrong did leave Friday's Zoom call with, "Stay tuned. You never know what will happen tonight, so I'll talk to everybody later."

Blais, 25, addresses a need for the Rangers and gives them some more grit after they added Barclay Goodrow from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Blais, originally drafted by the Blues in the sixth round 2014 NHL draft. had 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 119 games.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Sammy Blais spent his first four seasons with the Blues but was traded to
the New York Rangers on Friday.

"I think that at different times when he was getting going, he was hit with the injury bug and it's unfortunate," Armstrong said of Blais. "We've had other players that it's happened to in the past and I think Sammy's going to be a really good player. There's more there. Quite honestly if this trade didn't happen, I was expecting more from him, I was expecting the ice and the minutes to go up. I was expecting the point total to go up. I think the Rangers, I don't want to speak for them, but I assume they believe that he has a different gear. He's getting into that age group that we're talking about where you can really take a big step. Sammy brought an edge to our team, he played with passion, he was one of the, I want to say this the way I mean it in a positive way, he was an aggressive player that sought out contact in a league that doesn't have a lot of that anymore. That was a valuable asset to us and to him and once he gets to New York, he's just going to be able to use that to gain the coach's confidence and gain ice time."

As for stay tuned, well, stay tuned, in case any more developments arise from the first night of the draft, which the Blues held the 17th pick (16th after the No. 11 pick by the Arizona Coyotes was voided).

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Armstrong confirms Tarasenko trade request, didn't rule out forward playing for Blues again

Conversation between GM, agent took place days after season ended, calls 
reasons for wanting trade "factually inaccurate;" latest on team UFA's

ST. LOUIS -- Doug Armstrong on Thursday finally disclosed what's been reported, that right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and his camp have requested a trade, but the thought of what Armstrong also dropped on Thursday just seems impossible at this point.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong confirmed on Thursday a trade
request was made by representatives of Vladimir Tarasenko (right).

"Oh no, I see there's certainly an outlook where I envision him putting on the jersey again," Armstrong said of Tarasenko playing for the Blues again. "There's many players in the NHL that have requested trades. You always try and keep it below the surface. But our responsibility is to do what's best for the St. Louis Blues, and if it means that he comes back and plays for us, that's the outlook that it has, but my responsibility is to the franchise and to do what's best for the Blues and hopefully best for Vladi." 

And with that, Armstrong hasn't burned the bridge himself of a potential return of Tarasenko to the Blues. He addressed the situation via Zoom and confirmed Tarasenko's request for a trade came through his agent, Paul Theofanous, two days after the completion of the season on May 25 after the Blues were swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche. 

There have been reports of the reasonings of why Tarasenko requested a trade, one of which was Tarasenko allegedly had issues with the way the first two shoulder surgeries were performed by the Blues medical staff. Armstrong refuted those reports.

"I'm not going to get into the nuances of the he-said, she-said things that have been reported," Armstrong said. 'A lot of the the things that are coming out are so factually inaccurate, it's shocking, but I'm not going to get into that."

Tarasenko has played in 34 regular-season games the past two seasons due to a dislocated left shoulder that has required three surgeries since the end of the 2017-18 season. He played in 24 games this past season and had 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) and scored twice during the playoff-series loss against the Avalanche.

After his initial surgery in 2017, he came back and played 76 games in 2018-19 and helped lead the Blues to their first Stanley Cup title. He was injured again Oct. 24, 2019 and had surgery on Oct. 27 and returned to play in four playoff games but was sent home for further evaluation to confirm the shoulder injury again that required a third surgery that left him out for the start of the 2020-21 season before making his season debut March 6 against the Los Angeles Kings. 

Tarasenko was previously represented by Mike Liut but switched agents with approximately a month remaining in the 2020-21 season.

"A couple days after the year ended, Paul called me and Vladi had talked to him and felt it was best if we could try and find a different opportunity for him and for us," Armstrong said. "I took that information. Vladi obviously has a full no-trade clause. He gave me a list of teams that would be a preference, a destination for him. 

"The way that I operate with no-trade clauses is I informed all the teams that Vladi had requested a trade. I said that there's a list of teams that he would prefer to go to, but if anyone has any ideas or some thoughts, I would work with them and take something to Vladi and he would have the 100 percent opportunity to accept or reject that concept."

Tarasenko has a full no-trade clause in his eight-year, $60-million contract he signed July 7, 2015 and it kicked in for the 2019-20 season, but he submitted a list of teams that he'd be willing to waive it to go to, according to Armstrong. A trade was not consummated prior to the Blues having to turn in their list to protect and leave unprotected for the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft presented by Upper Deck, which was conducted Wednesday.
The Kraken chose defenseman Vince Dunn instead and Tarasenko, who has two years remaining on a contract that carries a $7.5 million average annual value, remains a member of the Blues.

"I want to thank Paul. We were able to sort of keep it under the surface for 6-8 weeks," Armstrong said. "It came out a couple weeks ago and it sort of grabbed a life of its own. Going into the expansion draft, I felt an understanding that Vladi's desire was to see if there was a different opportunity, that we would expose him, understanding that if he got claimed and traded, claimed in Seattle, it would give him the fresh start he was looking for and also free up some cap space for us. The expansion went through and Seattle made the decision to go with Vince Dunn. As of today, Vladi is a member of the Blues.

"This is not something I'm going to be updating after this call today. Whatever we do will be done behind closed doors. Vladi has to prepare like he's coming back to St. Louis, he has to get ready to play. He's a 30-year-old, I'm sure he wants to play for a number of years in the NHL and he has to come back and have a great season and our focus is to do what's best for the St. Louis Blues. It was that when I heard that information and nothing has changed in that fashion. If we can do something that accommodates the player and the team, we'll certainly put our best foot forward, but my responsibility is to the St. Louis Blues and its fan base."

In other words, the Blues aren't trading Tarasenko just to be trading him and getting him off the books as fast as they can. If a deal can be made, the Blues will do it, whether they have to eat some of the salary or not, but the Blues are going to do their due diligence on this one now that the expansion draft is history and Tarasenko is still here. And if this goes perhaps into training camp or the season and the player refuses to play, then he won't get paid.

"Trades are difficult in the NHL," Armstrong said. "You don't see many of them quite honestly anymore and certainly in a flat cap system ($81.5 million) and also the structure of contracts, it's difficult to make moves. This one is no different. Obviously we're dealing with a player that's coming off of injury too,  which I'm sure it affects other teams on how they view it and what risk they're willing to take. I view Vladi as a healthy player, a guy that has scored 30 goals in the past on numerous occasions and a guy that should continue to score. As I said, I'm going to do what's best for the St. Louis Blues and making decisions to part ways.

"It's like anything that we do. We look at the pros and cons. We try and envision our decision, how it's going to play itself out. I have a frat of very, quality, experienced group of people here and we do what we think is best for the organization."

The free agency period begins on Wednesday, and for those that think Tarasenko has to be off the books for the Blues to go out and sign marquee players, ones that will make high-end money, they're allowed to go over the cap. It's just they have to be compliant by a certain time frame. 

"I know the cap is 81.5," Armstrong said. "We've projected out what it's going to cost us to keep our restricted free agents. Vladi's money is in that grouping, so it has an affect.

"... I'm not as concerned on the next couple of weeks as probably other people are. What I think we need to protect ourselves against is making a mistake right now. You get into a situation where you get nervous and all of the sudden you see long-term contracts given and you're a little uncomfortable and you do it, and then you're wondering what you did. I remember we were in this similar situation when we lost the semifinals to San Jose (in 2016) and lost some players (David Backes and Troy Brouwer), but you just have to understand it has to make sense for the organization today and tomorrow. Whether it's via free agency, whether it's via trades or whether it's via giving your young players an opportunity because you don't like what's available, you have to be honest with yourself and make sure you're doing what's best for the organization. Not just a splash-wise on the 28th or 29th but something that you can live with."

Speaking of splashes, the Blues have some of their own splashes to deal with, namely pending UFA forwards Jaden Schwartz, Mike Hoffman and Tyler Bozak along with finalizing contracts for pending RFA's Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford, who are both arbitration-eligible, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas, all of whom will get qualifying offers.

For Schwartz, it sounds like the player will test the market.

"Based on where we are today, there's always a chance that we can get something done, but I've been under the understanding that Schwartzy was going to want to see what free agency is like," Armstrong said. "That could change with one phone call. With that, it gives him and opportunity and gives us an opportunity to look around. 

"We have options of putting (Brayden) Schenn on the left side and going with (Ryan) O'Reilly and Robert Thomas down the middle, then you have Vladi and (David) Perron, Kyrou and Schenn, so you have a group of guys there that can fill the void or we get into free agency."
Regarding Hoffman and Bozak, there's an interest by the GM to have them both back.

"We've had conversations with our own guys," Armstrong said. "The 28th is the drop-dead date. Obviously I thought Mike came in and once he found some solid footing in our group, I thought he was a good player for us in the end and into the playoffs. I have a lot of respect for him. If he came back, I'd have no issues with that. 

"Certainly, Bozie's been a really good player for us for three years. I would say our depth in that area is probably a little stronger than in the top six. Both players, I really respect and certainly we'll keep the lines of communication open."

Addressing Dunn's departure will also be a focal point since the Blues are losing a home grown player, one who was an offensive defenseman that quarterbacked one of the power play units and is still only 24 years old.

 "Obviously we knew we were going to lose a player of value to our organization," Armstrong said. "I think that's the part and parcel with bringing that 32nd team (in). I think the NHL's done a great job of making sure that these new teams are competitive right off the get-go, or have the ability to be competitive. I think when we look at past expansions, maybe player pools wasn't deep enough and then all of the sudden you're in a market that can't have success and you maybe blame the market when the team itself wasn't set up to be competitive. ... First off, I'd like to thank Vince for his time here, second round pick that our guys did a nice job of developing, coming in being part of a championship team, always pushing to get better. I think he has a really bright future ahead of him and I want to thank him for his time here.

"You want to give young players the opportunities, the (Niko) Mikkolas, the (Jake) Walmans, potentially the (Scott) Perunovich's of the world as they gain experience, and to do that, you have to give them opportunities. When you lose the player of Vince's caliber, it makes a difference, but it does create opportunities for other people. 

"There's certainly options on what we want to do, if we want to go outside, where do we want to spend our money," Armstrong continued. "Do we want to give younger players an opportunity to grow and have success. That's always the interesting part for every organization is when do you sort of remove the safety net and give the young player an opportunity to take a role, a bigger role on the team. I think we need to do that with (Klim) Kostin, I think we need to do that with Kyrou, I think we need to do that with Thomas. The question is how deep do we go into our back end in doing that."

And lastly, Armstrong said that players who were or have been injured within the past year or at year's end, namely Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk and Robert Bortuzzo, have been working out and training at Centene Community Ice Center and "It seems like all systems are ahead on all of our guys."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said that defenseman Colton
Parayko (55) is "doing well" and should be ready for the upcoming season.

The 2021 NHL Draft will commence Friday and Saturday, all virtually, and the Blues will have the 16th pick (technically 17th if you count Arizona at No. 11, but the Coyotes had to forfeit their pick). Armstrong feels at pick 16, "all indications are that there will be someone there that we like. ... There's a couple of players that we believe will be at 16."

Unless the Blues trade the pick, whether in a larger-scoped trade or to move down and still get one of three players Armstrong said scouts like but feel will still be on the board, all indications are they'll be making the pick.

Blues lose Dunn to Kraken in expansion draft; retain Tarasenko for now

Defenseman chosen by Seattle, the NHL's 32nd team set to begin play 
next season; Tarasenko expected to be traded with interest from multiple suitors

ST. LOUIS -- In the end, it was what we all expected.

It took some twists and turns, but when the selection was made by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, Vince Dunn was a member of the St. Louis Blues no more.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues lost defenseman Vince Dunn (pictured) to the Seattle Kraken
in the expansion draft in Wednesday.

Dunn, a 24-year-old defenseman, was chosen by the Seattle Kraken in the NHL Expansion Draft Wednesday night when the 32nd entry into the league filled their team with one player from each roster except the Vegas Golden Knights.

Until an actual protected/unprotected list was submitted by the Blues and revealed by the league last Sunday, Dunn was sure to be left unprotected and the most coveted asset off the Blues roster for the Kraken, who will play their first season in 2021-22, even with forward Vladimir Tarasenko also available for selection.

It was sure that the three defensemen the Blues would protect would be Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk and Torey Krug, leaving Dunn, a 2015 second-round pick who is a Stanley Cup champion (2018-19) and has played his entire four-year career with the Blues in 267 regular-season games (32 goals, 70 assists), including career-highs in goals (12), assists (23) and points (35) during the Cup run.

The recent Tarasenko news of him reportedly asking for a trade threw a wrinkle into all of this from the Blues' perspective. The Blues, who couldn't come up with a solution from a trade perspective before the expansion lists had to be submitted, were willing to expose Tarasenko, 29, and lose him for nothing. What it would have done, however, is rid them of $15 million in remaining salary over the final two seasons of his contract and a $7.5 million cap hit.

It was certainly enticing for the Kraken to go that avenue despite the risk of three shoulder surgeries since 2017 because there is a market, albeit limited since Tarasenko has a no-trade clause in his contract, for the right winger. But multiple sources said the price coming back Seattle's way if they were to pick Tarasenko and flip him elsewhere, to say, the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers, among others, according to multiple sources, was not worth it.

So Tarasenko, for how, remains a Blue. For how long, nobody at this point knows. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong will address the media at 10 a.m. Thursday to hopefully shed some light on some of these things, including the upcoming NHL Draft this weekend.
So in the end, the Blues lost Dunn, who has always had the raw ability to be a solid offensive, puck-moving defenseman who was in the top four for the Blues but since the return to play after COVID-19 hit the world last year, it's been an up-and-down time for Dunn, who can be a restricted free agent June 28, with the Blues.

As for Dunn, what it does is pulls a position of need off their defensive unit, which is now left with Krug as it top d-man from the left side, along with Marco Scandella, Jake Walman, Niko Mikkola and Tyler Tucker. Scott Perunovich, a 2020 Hobey Baker Award winner, is left-handed but is more experienced on the right.

The Blues are likely to be on the lookout for a free agent defenseman, someone with a resume of a bigger, stronger, physical type of player, and Jamie Oleksiak fit that bill, but the former Dallas Stars defenseman was chosen by the Kraken and signed a five-year contract worth $4.6 million per season on Wednesday. Former Minnesota Wild stalwart Ryan Suter, who along with Zach Parise were recently each bought out of the remaining four years of matching 13-year, $98 million contracts, is an option and a fit on this team, even at 36 years old. Suter averaged 22:11 of ice time last season, his lowest output since averaging 20:35 in 2007-08 with the Nashville Predators, but still has mileage left in the wheels even after 16 seasons.

It wasn't what Armstrong and the Blues wanted, to lose Dunn for nothing, but after failed attempts to trade the young defenseman and not getting the return they were looking for, the Blues felt they could afford to absorb the hit of losing Dunn in the expansion draft.

As for Tarasenko, now the onus falls back in the Blues to either A) work out a trade as quickly as possible to free up the cap space and target free agent options, including Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who the Blues will make a big, strong push for should he hit the open market.

The idea of a trade with the Calgary Flames regarding homegrown Matthew Tkachuk seems far-fetched at this point, but it can't be completely ruled out. Another name to keep your eyes and ears peeled to, according to the same sources, is Buffalo Sabres RFA Sam Reinhart, who the Blues could throw an offer sheet at or acquire via trade; Reinhart, 25, has scored 94 goals the past four seasons, including 25 last season. Sabres teammate Jack Eichel also seems like a fat-fetched notion for the Blues.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues retained Vladimir Tarasenko after the Seattle
Kraken did not chose the right winger in the expansion draft.

Armstrong doesn't necessarily need to make a knee-jerk reaction trade either. Tarasenko holds a no-trade and reportedly gave the Blues a list of teams he'd be willing to go to, but the Blues should only make a deal that benefits them, not just the player in question, and if that means waiting out the summer, or even taking it into the season, which wouldn't be ideal, all the cards should be on the table.

But for all parties involved, the quicker, the better, and that being said, once that $7.5 million cap hit and however much salary is shed from the payroll, the better, and the Blues can conduct business a week from today with a full idea in mind.

Stay tuned as this plays out as the summer progresses.